Many would say that the Japanese are the masters of horror. And at least judging by the number of Hollywood remakes after already successful Japanese flicks, that’s probably right. Surely it’s difficult to comprise the best of the best in a Top 10 list especially since Japanese horrors can also be diverse in style, but here’s a selection that will mostly shock, sometimes amuse and definitely scare the Western sh*t out of you:

10. Jigoku/The Sinners of Hell (1960)

A graduate-school student has a friend who is pure evil. His friend and he are out driving one night when they hit a drunkard and the friend leaves the accident victim to die. The student’s life then goes downhill from there.


9. Kairo/Pulse (2001)

Japanese university students investigate a series of suicides linked to an Internet Web cam that promises visitors the chance to interact with the dead.


8. Ringu (1998)

A mysterious video kills whomever views it, unless that viewer can solve its mystery.

If you’ve already seen The Ring, a surprisingly good American remake, this movie might be a bit ruined for you. But if you appreciate Japanese over-acting and awkwardness, you will enjoy this movie for its idea either way.


7. Ju-on/The Grudge (2002)

A mysterious and vengeful spirit marks and pursues anybody who dares enter the house in which it resides.

While Sarah Michelle Gellar starred in a typically pointless shot by shot Hollywood remake of this movie, back in 2004, Ju-on still remains one of the great successes of the new J-Horror batch.


6. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

A strange man known only as the “metal fetishist”, who seems to have an insane compulsion to stick scrap metal into his body.

Not really much of a story to follow in here, but this movie definitely has some unique visuals and surreal ideas that make it a cult classic.


5. Audition (1999)

A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.

Well, if you know this movie’s director, Takashi Miike, then you will perfectly understand why this movie had records of walkouts during a screening at the Rotterdam festival. Don’t get discouraged by an uneventful first half.


4. Onibaba (1964)

In the 14th century, a woman and her daughter-in-law live in a small hut in a grass swamp. They make a living by killing samurai, disposing of their bodies in a deep pit and selling their armor and weapons.

Don’t expect blood and monsters, but expect a great medieval atmosphere in this psychological horror inspired by a Buddhist parable.


3. Three… Extremes (2004)

The idea behind this film is simple: get three highly regarded directors representing three separate Asian countries and let them each make a short horror film. The first short is directed by the already mentioned Takashi Miike and it’s probably the strongest too. Fruit Chan and Chan-wook Park also contribute to this anthology horror, making it a masterpiece of Asian cinema in its entirety.


2. The Face of Another (1966)

 The story follows a businessman, Okuyama, whose face is severely burnt in an unspecified work-related accident and is given a new face in the form of a lifelike mask. Soon after being fitted for the mask, he seduces his wife and succeeds. Strangely enough, his personality seemingly begins to change after he puts on the mask as if the mask has influenced his personality.


1. Kwaidan (1964)

If you’re really in for a treat, this 183 minutes film consists of four ghost stories directed by Masaki Kobayashi, one of Japan’s greatest directors ever. Needless to say it has great cinematography and chilling details inspired by Japanese folklore. Kwaidan honors the horror genre, proving that it can also be art.


Naturally, restricting to only 10 names on this list, a lot of good ones might have been omitted. So if you consider an absolute classic is missing from this Top 10, let me know! And if the same choice is repeated by many, I’ll take care to mention it in a later edit.

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